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The End of Reparations Talk? - Reparations in an Obama World

15 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2009 Last revised: 16 Apr 2009

Kevin Outterson

Boston University School of Law

Date Written: February 20, 2009


Disparities in Black health began in slavery, were reinforced in segregation and racism, and persist today despite significant remedial efforts. In the last decade, the statistics about Black health disparities show no improvement. The caustic history of slavery, racism and segregation hasn't been completely undone. Fundamental changes are still necessary to repair deficits in Black health.

But the election of Barack Obama has changed the relevance of reparations as a political tool for making these changes. We elected a Black man as President, and he refused to apply reparations talk to social programs of uplift for disadvantaged communities. Obama struck broader themes, bypassing reparations for slavery. At this point, we should let reparations rest as a political agenda, although it retains some relevance as a heuristic tool.

Keywords: reparations, Obama, health disparities, disparities, racial disparities, slavery, segregation

JEL Classification: I1, I11, I18, I19, K32, K39

Suggested Citation

Outterson, Kevin, The End of Reparations Talk? - Reparations in an Obama World (February 20, 2009). Kansas Law Review, Vol. 57, No. 4, 2009; Boston Univ. School of Law Working Paper No. 09-16. Available at SSRN:

Kevin Outterson (Contact Author)

Boston University School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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